The Joy of Discovery at Caherconnell…
Over 1,000 artefacts have been found at Caherconnell to date
Excavating at Caherconnell is a wonderful experience for many reasons. One of these is the wealth of the material culture preserved here – objects of stone, bone, antler, iron, bronze, lead, glass, amber, and even some wood all survive.
Caherconnell cashel was a high-status (possibly even ‘royal’) settlement that lasted for several hundred years. As such, the occupants possessed a lot of objects of varied type, and managed to drop many of them over the centuries. Approximately one thousand finds were recorded from Caherconnell cashel by the end of the 2014 excavation season.
These represent everyday life and include iron knives that were used for a variety of tasks, from food preparation to shoe-making, quern stones used to grind grain, spindle-whorls used to manufacture thread, and iron nails used to hold timber furniture together. The folks living at Caherconnell, however, were involved in a number of other activities. They made their own iron and bronze objects on site, having left behind the waste material, tools and crucibles and moulds associated with such processes.
High status is reflected in other types of objects recovered. These include items of personal ornament. The least expensive of these were the bone and antler hair combs and dress-pins. Iron was used to make a type of dress-pin called a ringed pin – a strong clothes-fastener that could have been used on a daily basis. The most expensive dress-pins were stick-pins made of bronze, all with some form of decoration. Other forms of personal ornament include glass and polished stone bracelets, stone finger rings, and beads of coloured glass, amber, stone and bone.
A different side to life is represented by a collection of iron arrowheads. Some of these may have been used for hunting, an upper-class past time, but some are of a type that were designed to pierce armour. In the later levels, some lead shot reflects the use of early pistols or muskets. So life was not always peaceful at Caherconnell!
It cannot have been too bad, however, as a couple of gaming pieces suggest that some occupants, at least, had time to play games. Yet others enjoyed music, with at least one bronze tuning peg from a harp discovered so far.
Accompanying the artefacts (the deliberately made objects) is a range of material that also helps paint a picture of life at Caherconnell. Metalworking slag (the waste material from smelting and smithing metal) tells us that iron and bronze was being worked within the settlement. Charcoal and ash remind us of the domestic and craft-working hearths that were used, with the charcoal also telling us what types of trees grew in the area. Preserved grains, marine shells, and hazelnut shells reveal something of the diet of the occupants, as does the large assemblage of animal, fish and bird bone found in every part of the excavation.
These people were well-off, kept themselves entertained, and dined on a variety of different foods.